The Priestly Duty

Early on, in the timeline of the history, God explicitly described what His people (Israel) were supposed to be…

Exodus 19:4-6a (NIV)
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Neglect of Duty

Whether the covenant in play during Israel’s history was either the old or the new, Israel was to always be “a kingdom of priests.” Unfortunately, while God’s people were under the old covenant, they failed to honor what was expected of them. They neglected their duty. This led to the need for God make a new covenant with them…

Hebrews 8:6-13 (NIV)
But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more. ”

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Unfaithfulness

A covenant with God and His people cannot remain if the people are found to be with “fault.” In other words (as the writer of Hebrews quoted from Jeremiah), “…they did not remain faithful to my covenant.”

What resulted from their unfaithfulness to God?

He divorced them, “…I turned away from them, declares the Lord.”

Here’s how that same portion of scripture reads in the book of Jeremiah…

Jeremiah 31:31-32 (NIV)
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.

Change of Heart

Even though God would end that “first” covenant with His people, declaring it “obsolete,” He would not leave them without a covenant. In order to “make a new covenant” with Israel (which they could keep), God would have to change them. He would have to change their hearts, making it possible to actually have a covenant with them…

Jeremiah 31:33-34 (NIV)
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

The Israel of God

1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Peter says, shockingly, that we (Christians) are “the people of God.” He also says that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…” We must always be aware of who we are, because knowing who we are puts everything in perspective. It wakes us up!

Peter was not the only New Testament writer to say similar things. Paul addressed the believers as being “the Israel of God,” when he closed his letter to the church in Galatia…

Galatians 6:15-16 (NIV)
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.

The Priestly Duty

Being a member of “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6), “a holy nation” (1 Peter 2), and “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19) comes with great responsibility. As Peter mentioned above, we are labeled as these things in order “…that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” In other words, our job is to herald Christ through the sharing of the good news (the Gospel). Such, is our priestly duty

Romans 15:15-16 (NIV)
Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Not only do I encourage you to embrace the priestly duty, but to also sing a new song…

Revelation 5:9-10 (NIV)
And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”

We must be the priests that we were called to be…

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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